On Thursday evening, predictably, the LibDem cabinet of Bristol city council gave the go-ahead to close and privatise the remaining council-run care homes and day centres for the elderly and vulnerable. They did this in the face of fierce opposition from over 100 people who had gathered outside the Council House before the meeting. These included care home residents, day centre users, families of these service users, trades unionists and community groups, all angry that the council was threatening these vital services. Everyone there was clear that these were cuts that the council was carrying out on behalf of the government. While billions are paid out to bankers and fat-cats, the elderly & vulnerable pay the price.
Most of the people who had gathered outside the Council House went into the meeting where councillors were faced with a barrage of questions, statements and petitions showing the level of opposition to these closures and privatisations. Speakers from BADACA, GMB, Unison along with the families of service users outlined the reality of these cuts and called on councillors to reject them. The BADACA petition calling for the retention of the council-run service, and a similar Unison one, attracted far more support than any of the ‘options’ offered in the council ‘consultation’.
Speakers from the floor told councillors that the proposals meant sacrificing the services to profit. Council-run care services are overwhelmingly popular. A privatised care service would have nowhere near the same level of support. Users of day centres and residents of care homes are rightly fearful of what the future holds for them. The chamber was full of applause and cheering as these arguments were put to the group of stony-faced LibDem councillors.
This changed once the LibDems stood up to explain why they were going ahead. Cllr Glenise Morgan was pushed to the front to justify the closures. There were boos and hoots of derision. Cllr Jon Rogers, the real architect of the plans, stepped in to explain that people had nothing to worry about as these weren’t cuts but were part of ‘modernising the service for the 21st century’. These arguments cut little ice with those in the public gallery.
Many of the public left the meeting before the proposals were approved. They could see that the LibDems were intent on voting them through. Any consultation and public input into the process was a sham. Only a concerted campaign among trades unions, community groups, service users & their families can prevent these closures and privatisations being implemented. The level of opposition demonstrated last night makes this possible. BADACA will be part of this campaign. Look out for details in the next few weeks.